I was chatting with a friend the other day about character strengths and weaknesses and how it can be used or mitigated in the workplace. I can’t remember what got the conversation started. I was probably complaining about my inability to be a true and proper teacher…
I’m open about my weaknesses and sober about my strengths, so I partook in the conversation with ease…and maybe a little pride because over the years I’ve fashioned my strengths in my head to be pretty bloody spectacular and my weaknesses pretty subtly self-adoring.
But one evening after this conversation I replayed it in my head like I do most things. I mulled over all the shitty things I’ve done and all the people I’ve hurt and tried to dig up the weaknesses in my chassis that I don’t admit out loud and certainly not to myself.
Sleeplessness is a bastard, what can I tell you…?
I judge addicts. I do. I don’t want to and I truly dislike the fact that I do, but I do. My dad was an alcoholic and booz screwed us over sweetly. It was hard for me to buy into the idea that alcoholism was an illness. It seemed so…voluntary…
Then a bright realization dawned on me like an epiphany in an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. I’m an addict. And as I was lying in bed I cringed at the truth of it. The subject of my addiction is different than my dad’s, but it’s an addiction all the same. Some people consume food to obtain energy to…you know…function. I use food to feel better and comfort my emotions and sooth the savage beast of fear. And I use and abuse it with the same reckless helplessness as my dad abused alcohol. Then I starve myself to lose the weight. Then I do it all over again.
As shame washed over me, so did regret. I shouldn’t have been so hard on my dad. He was struggling as I struggle. His weapon was just sharper than mine, but he was as weakened by his addiction as I am.
But I guess there’s also a bit of strength in the realization that defends against the overwhelming might of shame. A veil was lifted. It felt like the mask came off the face of a serial killer that was standing in the shadows behind the door. I understand something harmful about myself. Not that “Oh my weakness is I expect too much of myself” bullshit. I understand and real darkness about myself.
He’s still standing there, the serial killer. And he may still harm me. But it will no longer be a stranger that takes me. And that feels like it may give me the courage to fight back when he comes in for the kill. Maybe I’ll stand up for myself. Maybe I’ll fight for my life. Maybe I’ll scream: eff you, Bill, not today!